Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Supreme Court sends case back

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday to return Wisconsin Right to Life's case challenging the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 back to the lower court that had previously upheld the law.

Both the Wisconsin pro-life organization and U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., expressed satisfaction over the decision and both are expecting favorable outcomes.

"Today's decision means the issue ad provisions of McCain-Feingold, which was upheld by the Court in 2003, should remain in effect for this election cycle. That is good news," Feingold said in a press release.


In 2004, preceding Feingold's run for reelection, WRTL began running issue ads encouraging citizens to lobby their legislators.

The television and radio ads specifically mentioned Feingold, violating the McCain-Feingold Bill, which prohibits interest groups from naming officials within two months of Election Day without full disclosure of money.

"The reason the law is in place is that candidates have to use disclosed, regulated money, and outside groups should also have to use disclosed, regulated money so that the people can see where the money is coming from," Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said.

Heck added WRTL intentionally chose not to comply with the law, an action which was "totally unfair."

According to WRTL Legislative Director Susan Armacost, however, the organization's actions constituted "a legitimate lobbying activity" which was completely unrelated to the upcoming election.

"We think that McCain-Feingold's reach here is just too far," Armacost said, adding WRTL decided to file an "applied challenge" to the Federal Election Commission.

After a lower court upheld the act, WRTL took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping for the ruling to be overturned.

Although Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission was sent back to the lower court, the anti-abortion group views the Supreme Court's referral as a win.

"We're elated. It is a huge victory," Armacost said. "We'll see what happens. If they don't come with a decision on our side, we'll have to appeal back up to the Supreme Court," she said, adding WRTL is optimistic about the upcoming judgment of probable new court member Samuel Alito.

Feingold, however, remains equally confident the high court will uphold the act.

"Ultimately, I believe the courts will reject challenges to the law based on ads that are intended to affect elections," Feingold said in a release.

According to Heck, it is expected that the lower court's decision will stand and the case will be appealed back to the Supreme Court. Heck added that he questions the sincerity of WRTL's intentions.

"They [are] trying to pull a fast one, as usual. Wisconsin Right to Life has been one of the most consistent opponents of reform," Heck said. "This is an attempt … to open a loophole and destroy campaign-finance reform."

But, according to WRTL, the group is working instead to protect its First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

University of Wisconsin political science professor Donald Downs agrees the McCain-Feingold Bill may have gone too far, but backs the concept of disclosure.

"I think the McCain-Feingold law is leading to all sorts of mischief at the state level as states are starting to apply it in all sorts of new ways," Downs said. "If you look at the act as a whole, I think it's really troubling."

Downs added the most disconcerting part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act is its negative impact on competitive elections.

"What [the act] boils down to is that it is in protection of the incumbent," Downs said. "The key rule in modern American politics is how difficult it is to challenge incumbents."

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